Video: What's it like to go face-to-face with a lioness?

[Video Link] National Geographic wildlife photographer Mattias Klum tells a funny story about the day a lioness got a little too close.

He was lying on the ground near her in an effort to get a good shot.

"I like the perspective, it's like, in her realm," Klum recalls, "I'm not in a platform, or in a jeep, I'm there with her. And it felt really good. Until she started walking towards me."

Filmed at a recent National Geographic event. You can buy Klum's photos here, and follow him on Twitter here.

(thanks, Marilyn Terrell)


  1. If it were me, I’d have done the same: stayed completely still. But then I would have started to shake. Then, after the shakes went away, I probably would not have been able to help myself, and I would have said, “meow?” Then I would probably be killed, and not with cuteness, if you know what I’m saying.

  2. We humans aren’t used to being potential prey.  It always amazes me to see footage of lions (or some other top level predator) interacting with the other fauna — because everyone else *doesn’t* just get the hell out of there.   When the predator is on the hunt, sure, but there are lots of times that they just seem to be hanging out.  The predator isn’t hunting, and the other animals are busy grazing (or whatever).  Maybe the herbivores are terrified, but they sure don’t look like they are.  It isn’t what one would expect.

  3. In the second photograph, you can see the tip of the lioness’s tongue past her teeth.  That’s a cat grin.  She was in a good mood.

    The Kratt Brothers, in their ‘Be the Creature’ TV series, have a few episodes where they’re within leaping distance of some large predators.
    In the episode that the following clip comes from, they are filming on a beach AND noticing that a female bear with the two cubs is slowly walking along the same beach..towards them.  ‘Cept, she doesn’t see them, ‘cuz she’s paying attention to the male bear off in the distance.  And they’re holding their breath: they can’t make too much noise because they don’t want to alert the male nor startle the female. So they wait….

  4. Beryl Markham, in West with the Night, wrote about how she was walking the farm when she was a girl and came face to face with a lion.  If she ran, she would be prey; if she looked at him, she’d be a threat.  So she looked away and passed a few feet by him going in the opposite direction.

    1.  There’s a similar story in Elizabeth Thomas’ book on big cats, /The Tribe of the Tiger./ I don’t have my copy handy, but that was the advice Africans who’d lived alongside lions, and shared game trails and water holes with them for centuries, gave: glance at its face to acknowledge its existence, but don’t stare because that’s aggressive, then look off to one side and walk past. A westerner who didn’t believe this accidentally startled a lion one night on a game trail … and the lion glanced at his face, looked off to one side of him, and walked past.

      The “please show everyone how cute we are so they’ll save us” thing is probably over-anthropomorphizing it — lions understand our politics? Unlikely; we don’t even understand our politics. But “you’re just lying down being social? okay, I can do that” is not implausible cross-species. Even the deadliest predators on earth (other than us) don’t kill for no good reason. They kill when threatened, when hungry, or when they have young to feed; otherwise they don’t bother. Why would they? Over-hunting your environment is contra-survival behavior.

  5. “Please show everyone how cute we are so they’ll save us”?  Hardly.  More like, “I’m fabulous, I’m glamorous, I’m rolling on the ground for you… what more do you want from me – Christian Dior?  Take a damn picture, tiny man!”

  6. Why is the video I get on the front page “Dog playing piano and singing”?   This happens to me all the time on this site.

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